09/23/2011, 10:34 AM
The news yesterday of Leo’s ouster gave the webOS community hope that change is in the wind. Coming barely a month after announcing a full stop on webOS device development, many attributed his removal to be directly related to that decision. But CEO Meg Whitman’s statement that things will not change doesn’t fill me with hope concerning the future of webOS.
On the surface, it sounds like HP’s problem with Leo Apotheker was in the execution of their plan rather than the plan itself. Leo announced that webOS development would stop and the Personal Systems Group (PSG) would be spun off without informing anyone in HP itself prior to the announcement. To put this in different terms, this would be similar to the president and Congress agreeing to invade a country and then making a public announcement without first informing the military of the plan. There would be some obvious problems.
Meg said yesterday she had no problem with the plan. Which makes sense considering she was sitting on the board at the time and had a hand in drafting the plan. So there is no reason to believe she would alter it in any major way. The only way I could see her changing course is if on further investigation she discovers that Leo misrepresented the current or future strength of webOS to the board.
The problem is Executive Chairman Ray Lane said something yesterday that could indeed spell the end of webOS: “This is not the board that fired Mark Hurd.” That also means this is not the board that bought Palm. HP could have seen the expense required to get webOS to a competitive state before the release of Windows 8 and decided it wasn’t worth it. Why spend your money trying to develop devices and an OS when you could just build a device for the finally tablet-based Windows? Remember that one of HP’s reasons for buying Palm to begin with was frustration with Microsoft’s feet dragging on adapting to the new touch-based reality.
That doesn’t mean that webOS is doomed; but its future is in limbo. Just as Meg Whitman said a decision about PSG must be made within the quarter (I think it’ll stay in-house), so too should a decision about the future of webOS. In other word, HP needs to decide soon whether it is going to double down or fold. It’s not healthy for HP nor the webOS community to drag this out. Either dump as much cash as needed to turn webOS into a viable second alternative to iOS or close up shop and get back to building devices for Microsoft. Don’t keep this community on life support. If HP plans on ending support, then they need to make the break clean.
The only thing webOS users can do right now is to make sure their feelings about the OS is made clear to Meg Whitman. Follow her on twitter; comment on HP’s facebook; get the word out that webOS has the support from the community to make a run at Apple’s dominance. Lane said that the PSG decision will be “the easiest decision we ever made -- investors and customers will tell us.” Well, customers, if you want webOS to have a future, then you need to let HP know you will be first in line to buy their devices. You need to let them know that you are just as fanatical as the Apple faithful.
You’ll need to stop being just webOS fans and start becoming HP fans. That is the only chance webOS has.